Student sexually assaulted by university lecturer while walking home

‘These people in power are meant to keep us safe’: Student, 22, sexually assaulted by a senior lecturer at her university she walked home alone at night says she’ll ‘never feel safe again’ in the wake of Sarah Everard murder

  • Kary Thanapalan, 49, has been jailed after sexually assaulting Whitney Dowler
  • Senior lecturer stalked student, 22, through streets of Treforest, Pontypridd  
  • Whitney admits she’s unsure if she will ever feel safe again and has panic attacks 

A student has revealed how she was harassed and sexually assaulted by a lecturer from her university as she walked home late at night.

Whitney Dowler, 22, was studying at the University of South Wales when Kary Thanapalan, 49, relentlessly stalked her through the streets of Treforest, Pontypridd, before sexually assaulting her.

Thanapalan, who was a senior lecturer of aeronautical & mechanical engineering at Whitney’s university, fled after her friend turned up and scared him away.

In May 2021, Thanapalan was jailed for two years for the sickening attack.

Waiving her right to anonymity, Whitney, a trainee library assistant, told Femail: ‘After following the cases of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, I feel lucky to be alive.

‘What happened to those women could’ve easily happened to me that night.

‘The fact that Wayne Couzens was a police officer and Kary was a university lecturer really hit home.

‘These people in power are meant to keep us safe. It’s terrifying.’

Whitney Dowler, 22, (pictured), from Bargoed, Wales, was in her last year at  the University of South Wales when senior lecturer Kary Thanapalan, 49, harassed and sexually assaulted her 

In September 2020, Whitney, from Bargoed, Wales, returned to university for her final year studying IT.

Two months later, she met a friend at a local pub.

She says: ‘My friend and I had a couple of drinks and caught up about uni life.

‘Around 10pm I called it a night and hugged him goodbye.

‘When I went outside, it was pitch black.

‘I only lived two miles away and couldn’t afford a taxi so I began walking.’

20 minutes later, as Whitney approached a pizza shop, she spotted Thanapalan stood against a wall.

Kary Thanapalan, 49, (pictured) of Egypt Street, Treforest, kissed Whitney on the face and groped her breast during his drunken attack 

Whitney says: ‘The man was in dark clothing and he slurred, “Hey babe”.

‘I knew he was drunk. ‘Avoiding eye contact, I hurried past him.

‘But he shouted “Baby” and began following me.

‘Panicking, I told myself to just keep ignoring him and he’ll soon go away.

‘But he didn’t. He shouted ‘Come here baby!’ and wouldn’t stop harassing me.

‘I started to run and the man caught up with me and grabbed my arm.

‘He begged me for a kiss and I tried pushing him away.

‘He managed to plant a kiss on my face and groped my breast.

‘Terrified, I shoved him off me before running away in a different direction.’

Whitney (pictured) recounts Thanapalan chasing her through the streets, while saying that she was ‘breaking his heart’ as she tried to escape 

But Thanapalan didn’t give up and chased Whitney through the streets.

Whitney says: ‘He kept saying I was breaking his heart and that I was going to come home with him.

‘I was sobbing and telling him “No” over and over. I begged him to leave me alone.

‘At one point we reached a busy street and a car pulled up next to me.

‘It was a male driver who asked if I was okay.

‘Crying, I told him that I was being followed.

‘The driver offered me a lift home but I realised he was also a stranger.

‘I didn’t know if he was a threat as well, I couldn’t trust anyone. So I said no.’

Whitney (pictured), who thought she was going to be raped or killed, said Thanapalan didn’t flee until he spotted her friend running towards them 

Thanapalan continued stalking Whitney for the next 20 minutes.

As she approached Treforest railway station, she managed to text a friend who lived nearby.

Whitney says: ‘As I got to the station car park, the man grabbed me again and groped my breast.

‘Suddenly, I spotted my friend in the distance and I screamed for help.

‘He ran towards us, screaming at the man to get off me.

‘Thankfully, he let go of me and fled.

‘I thought I was going to be raped or killed.’

That night, Whitney reported what happened to the police.

Three days later, Thanapalan was arrested after police tracked him through CCTV.

They also matched his DNA to saliva on Whitney’s cheek and clothes.

The next week, a representative from Whitney’s university called her.

Whitney (pictured) revealed that she has a panic attack if someone walks near her on the street now and said she doesn’t know if she will ever feel safe again 

She says: ‘The person was from student support.

‘They said they were so sorry about what happened and offered me help.

‘I was confused as to how they knew what had happened.

‘They then revealed Kary had been a senior lecturer of aeronautical and mechanical engineering at my university for years.

‘I felt sick and couldn’t believe it.’

In May 2021, Kary Thanapalan, 49, of Egypt Street, Treforest, pleaded guilty to sexual assaulting Whitney at Cardiff Crown Court.

He was jailed for two years.

Whitney says: ‘Men like Kary are why women are so afraid to walk home alone, especially at night.

‘If someone walks near me on the street now, I have a panic attack.

‘I don’t know if I’ll ever feel safe again.

‘Kary targeted me that night and I don’t know what would’ve happened if my friend hadn’t turned up and scared him away.’ 

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